NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With the governor’s special session now just over ten days away, it seems increasingly likely no substantial gun legislation will pass.
“The governor’s included a number of things in this particular call, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with guns or gun rights,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) said. “The call does include language that would accommodate the filing of his proposed protection order. As we’ve discussed, I do not anticipate that passing, and I do not support it.”
That thought may lead to frustration from thousands in Tennessee.
“It’s more difficult to become a member of this church than it is to purchase a gun,” Dr. Mark Moore said.
Dr. Moore is the pastor for a church in Murfreesboro and was one of more than 20,000 people who submitted responses after Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) requested it.
“We need to find common ground, and I hope our legislators can find some common ground and begin there,” Dr. Moore said. “But we all want the same thing, and we all want to be safe.”
Of course, how to get there is the issue. Dr. Moore said he was raised as a conservative and is a stark defender of the Second Amendment. But he said something has to change.
“I don’t see any issue with extensive, thorough background checks,” he said. “That does nothing to the Second Amendment. We still get to purchase our guns.”
Dr. Moore pointed to his own experience as a pastor as an example.
“It’s more difficult to attend seminary than it is to purchase a gun because it involves extensive background checks, it involves interviews, it involves references,” he said. “You don’t get that when you purchase a gun.”
The governor’s response form shows thousands of other Tennesseans share Dr. Moore’s views, while another few thousand also oppose them.
“I do think a majority of those people exist in the middle,” he said. “I think the loudest people, from the fringes, are the ones who scream and get the news.”
Though, when the responses are counted up, it shows more people in favor of tighter gun laws – something the legislature seems unmoved on.
“I don’t think that’s the right avenue that we need to be looking at at this point,” Sen. Mark Pody (R-Lebanon) said. “Just because we’re taking one certain type of weapons away, we’re still not getting them the help that they need.”
Still, the pleas continue.
“To have no restrictions whatsoever on the automatic rifles, I think we can only expect more of the same until that shifts,” Dr. Will Norton said.
Dr. Norton heads up Saint Paul Christian Academy, which is located less than a mile from the Covenant School.
He had texted Dr. Katherine Koonce the day of the shooting when she was killed.
“Yeah, I was asking her if she needed bus support because we were seeing the need for buses to go out and just wanted to offer whatever we could do,” Dr. Norton said. “I knew she was being overwhelmed but didn’t, of course, at that time, know what had transpired.”
He said he appreciates the legislature and governor for bolstering school safety this year but feels it can go further.
“How do those who are getting armed rifles, automatic rifles?” Dr. Norton said. “How do they have access to these military grade weapons?”
Like Dr. Moore, Dr. Norton says he’s a stark supporter of the Second Amendment, but there are ways to strengthen gun laws without violating constitutional rights.
“I was in the Army. There were all sorts of restrictions around what you could do with the same weapons,” he said. “You could not take them home, there were all sorts of qualifications you had to do in order to get that because they are exactly that: military-grade weapons.”
Proposals for tougher gun control have brought strong opinions and polarizing viewpoints from state lawmakers. News 2 explores what the people of Tennessee think in a special Voices of Tennessee report.